The Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) is an AmeriCorps service program that develops skills and experiences for conservation professionals. LRCC members are the driving force behind the Squam Lakes Association’s conservation efforts. The program provides hands-on conservation work experience and numerous certifications over a broad range of areas, which ensures that LRCC members are capable of independently approaching a variety of tasks in the environmental conservation field. Members remove invasive species from the Squam watershed, manage and act as caretakers at our backcountry campsites, maintain the SLA’s 50+ miles of trails, educate the public on local and regional conservation initiatives, spearhead reports on conservation efforts, lead SLA volunteer crews and ensure the daily functioning of the Squam Lakes Association’s programs. Click here to learn more about the LRCC program.
August 14, 2019, Heather (Squam Lakes Association)
Countless studies have shown that a dose of the great outdoors provides numerous health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and improve mental health, so it’s no wonder why there are so many people wanting to explore and enjoy nature. Some of my most memorable experiences are during hikes. Whether it’s a challenging trail with an arduous scramble or a path that gently winds through the landscape, there is a certain satisfaction and sense of peace after completing a trail that is intoxicating.
Before serving for the Squam Lakes Association, I was aware that trails had to be maintained, of course, but I do not think I truly understood the effort involved. I have since been enlightened by helping with the upkeep of the Squam Lake Association’s (SLA) 50 miles of trails and I have developed a whole new appreciation for the people who maintained all of the trails I have hiked in the past.
First off, there are many tools that we use, but I would say that the “top dogs” for the SLA are the loppers, mattocks, McLeods and handsaws. In addition to these tools, we always bring safety protection and a first aid kit as a precaution, because we can be swinging around some pretty hefty tools. Last but not least, we bring plenty of water and food for, well, basic human needs. As you can probably imagine, with each tool weighing anywhere from 3-7 Lbs. the extra weight can add up quickly, so it helps to be in good hiking shape and important to remember that it is not a race.
The type of trail work we do can range based on a variety of factors, such as the use and nature of the trail. On trails that have a lot of water erosion, we create and maintain water bars to lead water away from the trail. Other trails primarily require sawing and moving blow downs that are blocking the trail or lopping low branches that grow into the path. Let me tell you, nothing is more satisfying than the moment your hand saw goes through a blown down tree you’ve been sawing away at for what feels like an eternity, and you are finally able to clear it from the path. It may sound strange, but it’s nice to be able to take a second to admire your work with the knowledge that you have cleared a path that many future hikers will now continue to enjoy.
A couple of weeks ago, Qiyah and I had the pleasure of joining a group from the University of New Hampshire to help harden a section of our most popular trail, Old Bridal Path that leads up West Rattlesnake. This involves moving large rocks to create a stone pathway along the trail. This substantial task reduces erosion from foot traffic and prolongs the life of the trail. So, we scoured the area looking for good-sized boulders that were relatively flat and fit to serve as a piece of our pathway. Once a fitting specimen was found, we used rock bars to hoist it out of its place of settlement and rolled it onto a large rock net to carry it back to the trail. We spent the first half of the day lugging these ginormous rocks to the trail. After taking a relaxing break for lunch, we headed back to the trail to complete, in my opinion, the more fun task of actually assembling the path. It was similar to putting together a puzzle as we moved the rocks in every which way to ensure they fit together nicely. You quickly learn how to pay attention to the shape of the rocks and how they slope because, as you could imagine, these rocks are super heavy, so you want to move them as little as possible.
Once the day was done and we looked back at our work, it was impressive to see the section of the path we put together as a team! Now, every time I hike up Rattlesnake there is an unmistakable physical feature displaying the effort we put into maintaining the trail for years to come. It is trail-work days like these that are the most gratifying. Yes, I may sweat my posterior off and be a little sore the next day, but it is ridiculously satisfying knowing that my hard work is allowing other people, as well as myself, to get out and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Heather enjoys warm weather, reading, and eating 75 cent poptarts from Hannafords. You can read more about Heather here.
August 8, 2019, Jordin (Lakes Region Conservation Trust)
77 days. This is how long I have been serving with Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT) as an AmeriCorps Member. Half of my service period is almost over and I have already learned so many new skills. From earning my New Hampshire Boaters License, learning how to assess a protected property, lead participates on a guided hike, and many more. And it’s only been 77 days.
One of my favorite duties while serving with LRCT is Island Hosting on Ragged Island. Ragged Island is a 13 acre island located on Lake Winnipesauke between Long Island and Cow Island. During the summer months the AmeriCorps members spend weekend on Ragged Island to make a LRCT presence on the property. This is one of the most fun duties we have; we are able talk to people about how LRCT protects amazing properties for future generations and how the public is allowed to visit these properties. However it is not as simple as you think it might be. I am going to give you a step by step of what goes on while Island Hosting.
8am: We arrive at Center Harbor Inn to unload our gear and coolers. We grab the dingy; row over to our pontoon boat, drive the boat to the dock, and load our gear on the boat.
8:30am: We take off to Ragged Island and arrive an hour later. We document, in a log, the weather, what time we left, and how the lake was in regards to choppiness and the amount of boats.
9:30am: We arrive at Ragged Island and unload our gear. We open the historical cabin and make sure no critters have made their way inside.
10am: After having a quick snack, we set up our merchandise table near the docks. Our table has hats, stickers, and information about Lakes Region Conservation Trust. We help boats dock and also use this time to talk to people (and their dogs) about LRCT and AmeriCorps Program, we discuss everything from Ragged Island to other properties and other projects we have going on during the summer. In addition, we conduct rounds on the nature trail on the island. This nature trail connects both beaches and allows us to check on the public during the day. Last but not least, we clean the bathrooms. We have public composting toilet that need to be cleaned daily and this is the most favorable thing about Ragged Island.
1pm: LUNCH TIME!
2pm: We continue to talk to the public, conduct rounds, and sell merchandise until dinner time.
6pm: Around this time people start to head home thus we pack up our table and conduct the last round for the day. After eating dinner, we set up where we are going to sleep. Some of us prefer to sleep in a hammock while others prefer the tent. I personally like the tent but I have slept in a hammock and it was great.
9pm: This is my usual bed time but other stay up a bit later.
7am: For the first time, I woke up to a very loud “BANG”. I came out of my tent to find my coworker on the ground because she fell out of her hammock. What a wonderful way to wake up! However, during the morning we hear so many sounds such as the crashing of the water on the rocks, loons calling from the lake, and mink playing in the bushes.
7:30am: We pack up our sleeping gear and start to have breakfast. Scrambled eggs and oatmeal are the main go to meals.
8:30am: We clean our dishes from breakfast and decided to clean the bathroom.
9am: We set up our merchandise table and settle in for the day in our lawn chairs, loaded with our books, snacks, and refreshments.
12pm: LUNCH TIME!
2:30pm: We pack up our table, load the boat with our packs and coolers, and conduct the last round on the island.
3pm: We depart from Ragged Island and arrive an hour later.
4pm: We arrive at Center Harbor Inn, we unload our gear into the car, and attach the pontoon boat to the mooring.
This now gives you a basic idea of how we spend our weekends on the island and how we still make an impact on people while still having a relaxing couple of days.
LRCT AmeriCorps Member
Jordin is studying Wildlife and Environmental Biology and Criminology at Framingham State University and will be earning her bachelors degree this year. You can read more about Jordin here.
August 7, 2019, Dawe (Squam Lakes Association)
Late one afternoon while making my rounds to the islands, I had a camper ask me a question. “That howling sound, is that a bird?” I couldn’t stop myself from laughing a bit at the Loon’s call being called a ‘howl’. I explained to him that while the sound can be pretty unnerving when you don’t know what it is, it’s a very welcome sound to us, as we try to do everything we can to help the loon population on Squam.
On Monday the 5th, myself and a handful of other service members and community members took off from the docks at 8pm for a long night of loon banding. I’m no stranger to banding birds, I’ve handled warblers and other local songbirds, but I don’t think anything could have quite prepared me for how different it would be handling loons. The first one we caught was an adult female. After scanning little squam for quite some time, our spotlight landed on her and we tracked her until she was close enough to net. Handling a loon is less of a matter of being careful and delicate, and more of a matter of holding on tight and watching out for the beak. She landed a couple bites on me, which was only fair for what we were going to have to do with her. Holding her in the boat was bittersweet. It could feel her breathing and fighting against us, but I knew that the work we were doing was ultimately in the benefit of the loons that call Squam Lake home.
Shortly after her, we caught the male, and the chick. Samples of blood and feathers were taken from the adults, and they were all weighed. In addition, the male had yet to be banded, so he was given some stylish ankle bracelets. The night was considered a massive win for the Loon Preservation Committee. We had caught and taken measurements from all 3 birds we were looking for, and it only took us to midnight, as opposed to the 3am late nights they told us about. The experience was so much fun, and it was just that much better knowing that we had helped do our part to help the loon population on Squam.
Dawe is a Lakes Region Conservation Corps members serving at the Squam Lakes Association. You can read more about Dawe here.
Join our Conservation Corps members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.